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A labour of love

I get many, many enquiries for cake. Some come through with orders. Others go elsewhere. Probably to Sainsburys or Asda. Because they don't realise the true cost of having a custom cake for their party.

Take the average enquiry.

"I want a cake. How much?"

"Could you tell me a little more? How many servings? What flavour? What decorations are you looking for?"

"What's your cheapest cake?"

"A six inch round cake filled with jam and buttercream, covered in fondant and ganache, presented on a fondant covered, ribbon trimmed board, serving 12-14, boxed for collection starts from £40 depending on your additional decorative requirements. The slices are 4-5 inches deep so I can slip a board in between the middle layers to double your servings."

Click. Buzz.

Of course, you can go to Asda and feed 20 people for half the price. But it won't taste so good. Or look so good. And it'll be full of things your grandma never heard of like Humectants, Disodium Diphosphate, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate. My basic sponge has just five ingredients - butter, flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla. Nothing more. Then jam, butter, icing sugar, chocolate, cream. Maybe some fondant (which I'll admit is a bit less natural as I don't make my own). That's all.

And it takes nearly as much time to bake and decorate a small six-inch round cake as it does to decorate a simple nine or ten inch cake. Sure, there are more ingredients, the board is bigger, the box is bigger. And that's why it costs a bit more. But slice for slice, the cake gets cheaper the more you order.

Take the cake in the picture. I gave this donated this to the Bake a Smile project which delivers cakes to people in care homes who don't have family to help celebrate their birthdays. It's a basic six inch sponge, simply decorated. The time breakdown is as follows:

  • Prep cake tins. Weigh ingredients. Make cake and put in the oven. - 20 minutes

  • Wash up (yes this takes time and costs money for hot water and soap!) - 5 minutes

  • Make buttercream, sugar syrup and ganache. 15 minutes

  • Layer, fill and coat cake - 20 minutes

  • Cover cake in fondant - 20 minutes

  • Cover and trim board - 15 minutes

  • Make decorations - 1 hour

  • Wash up and clean the kitchen again - 10 minutes

Note this is actual time, not elapsed time. This process takes a minimum of eight hours with cooling and setting and so forth.

So 2.5 hours. At minimum wage that's £22.57 right there. Before ingredients. Before consumables like washing up liquid, paper to line the tins, piping bags. Before wear and tear on my tools. Before I've paid insurance to protect myself and you. Before I've done the admin required to be registered with South Gloucestershire Council (which many cheaper cake makers are not).

Bespoke cakes are a labour of love. They don't just magically happen. It takes planning, time, ingredients, specialist tools, patience, skill - and sometimes even tears - to bring you your cake. And much as I'd love to be able to give you all that for free, as a once-single-mum who works extremely hard for all she has (let's clear this up once and for all - I own my own home, it's not a joint thing), whilst I love caking and bringing joy to other people, at the end of the day my fledgling business it has to "wash its face".

You wouldn't ask your builder to build your extension for just the cost of the materials, would you? Or your car mechanic to fix your car for just parts and not labour.

But the love bit? You can have that for free.

Sorry for the seemingly ranty post, but I just needed to help people understand what they're asking for when they want a custom cake.

And for what it's worth, this week I costed up my own wedding cake - which I'm stupidly making next year. Just for the raw materials and specialist tools and cutters I need, I got to £282.91. And I reckon about 20 hours of work. I think the groom might be getting a bill for that one!

Caking regards,

Rebecca x

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